Novartis ($NVS) has won European approval of Bexsero, its new meningitis B vaccine, which is central to the Big Pharma's drive to grow its big vaccine unit.
Novartis paid $5 billion to break its way into the vaccines business, acquiring Chiron and a slate of new vaccine prospects in the pipeline. But sales have lagged behind expectations, making Novartis chief Joe Jimenez--a rigid taskmaster when it comes to performance--restless about the vaccines business.
Demand is expected to be brisk for the new vaccine, which offers protection against a bacterial infection that triggers inflammation in the critical lining around the brain and spinal column. Meningitis B can kill within 24 hours if not properly treated. According to Reuters, though, analysts expect sales of the new vaccine to top out at $600 million to $700 million a year, well below the $1 billion blockbuster mark.
"Each year, thousands of parents see their children die or left with severe disabilities as a result of this devastating disease. Through the combined efforts of many people over two decades, we are closer than ever to seeing an end to this suffering," said Andrin Oswald, the division head of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, in a release. "Our vision is a world without meningitis, and our priority is to work with decision makers across Europe to ensure there is broad and timely access to vaccination."
Pfizer has been testing a potential rival to Bexsero, which is now in Phase III.
- here's the press release
- here's the story from Reuters